PRISTINA, Kosovo — England captain Harry Kane scored his 12th goal of the campaign as it secured a place among the top six seeds for next year’s European Championship with a somewhat flattering 4-0 win in Kosovo in its final qualifier on Sunday.
England was in second gear for much of the match as Harry Winks put the English ahead in the 32nd minute, but late goals by Kane, Marcus Rashford and Mason Mount secured another big win and took the team’s goal tally to an impressive 37 from eight qualifiers.
England, already through to the Euro 2020 tournment in which the semifinals and final will be held at Wembley, finished top of Group A with 21 points, the only blip being last month’s 1-2 loss away to the Czech Republic, which qualified as runner-up.
Kosovo finished third on 11 points. Its chances of automatic qualification disappeared after a 2-1 defeat by the Czechs on Thursday but they could advance via the playoffs.
“It was a tight game and a good test for us really,” said England manager Gareth Southgate. “It was a difficult pitch, with players slipping and passes going astray.
“We needed a tighter game and a challenge. I’m happy we got that. We had to sustain spells of pressure and gave them chances – on another night that would be a problem. But attacking we were ruthless.”
England took a while to impose themselves on the game but broke through when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain slid a pass into the path of Winks who had all the time and space needed to slot the ball into the bottom corner for his first international goal.
Two months ago England led the corresponding home fixture 5-1 at halftime but their somewhat sloppy display on Sunday, lacking intensity, left them way short of those levels.
Kosovo, which exposed England’s defense a few times in its 3-5 defeat in September, was less threatening but unmarked captain Amir Rrahmani headed wide early in the second half.
Kane, who got a hat-trick in Thursday’s 7-0 thrashing of Montenegro, was on target again in the 79th minute with a sharp shot after Kosovo failed to clear a Raheem Sterling cross.
His 12th goal made him the leading scorer across the competition and the first England player to score in every match of a qualifying campaign.
Sterling, back in the side after his one-match ban for attacking team mate Joe Gomez, was provider again three minutes later for Rashford, which scored with a neat first time shot. – Reuters